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Gators linebacker Jelani Jenkins sacks South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw on Saturday.

Sunday October 21, 2012Gators Notebook: Muschamp defeats Spurrier, Jenkins' strong return, Burton strikes again, plus more

Gators linebacker Jelani Jenkins sacks South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw on Saturday.

Scott Carter
By SCOTT CARTER
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

GatorZone.com senior writer Chris Harry contributed to this report.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In his brief time as Florida's head coach Will Muschamp has gotten to know former Gators coach Steve Spurrier.

The two are friendly foes and share a mutual respect. On Saturday Muschamp got his first win as a head coach against Spurrier when the Gators beat South Carolina 44-11.

In Muschamp's first season the Gators lost at South Carolina.

Muschamp was asked if Saturday's victory carried special meaning because he beat a Spurrier, the man who nicknamed Ben Hill Griffin Stadium the Swamp and whose bronzed statue Muschamp drives past every morning on his way into the office.

"It has nothing to do with me being the Florida coach, it has to do with the respect that I have for him as a football coach, and not necessarily what he did at Florida,'' Muschamp said. "What he did at Duke and what he is doing at South Carolina. I've got tremendous respect for the guy.

"The guy has been good to me since I've been here and I appreciate that. I've got as much respect for him as I do for anybody who has been a coach, for what he has accomplished and for what he did for this university. I don't ever like to use the word 'easy,' but he has made my job a lot more doable in recruiting because of what he has created here and the tradition he created here. I appreciate that."

Spurrier, who also won his first head-to-head battle with former Gators coach Urban Meyer in 2005, dropped to 3-5 against his alma mater since taking over the Gamecocks.

JENKINS DOES IT

Gators starting linebacker Jelani Jenkins showed he is healthy and back to form with a good game on Saturday. Jenkins finished with four tackles and had a sack.

He also made an interception late in the first half that was wiped away due to an offside penalty on teammate Lerentee McCray.

"I'm just happy he caught the ball,'' Muschamp said. "We got negated by a penalty, and that was unfortunate, we'll get that corrected. That was a fabulous play on his part. The coverage on the tight end on the crosser, and to get back and relocate his eyes on the ball and he caught it.

"Maybe the harder catchers are easier for him, I don't know."

Jenkins had dropped potential interceptions in the past. However, playing with a cast on his right hand to protect a broken thumb, Jenkins made a nice play. Muschamp was one of the first to greet him on the sideline with a near tackle.

Jenkins broke his thumb at Texas A&M on Sept. 8 and missed the next two games. He returned to play against LSU but left early due to a strained hamstring that caused him to miss last week's game at Vanderbilt.

Jenkins showed no limitations on Saturday playing with the cast on.

"At first it was weird but I kind of got used to it. I'm not able to grab as good as I want to, but it's one of those things you've just got to deal with,'' he said. "As long as I'm on the field and able to contribute, I'm happy. As long as I'm not hurting the team, I'm happy being out there playing with a cast on."

QUOTE OF NOTE

"I didn't even know he hit me until all the other players told me. I thought it was one of my teammates. He really is the Boom coach." -- Jenkins on Muschamp's greeting following the interception

QUOTE OF NOTE II

"We had a bunch of guys in the locker room that were there in Columbia ... and all those places. Certainly we have drawn motivation from that. I think you do that as a coach. You find out what motivates your guys. We've got a bunch of competitive guys in the locker room and they rallied around that a little bit." -- Muschamp on the Gators' ability to defeat teams they lost to last year

TREY’S IMPACT

The SEC’s second-best running team was on its way to a 13-yard first half -- on 18 carries, no less -- when UF offensive coordinator Brent Pease figured it time to throw the No. 8 wrinkle at the Gamecocks.

Trey Burton didn’t break any 80-yard touchdown runs from his “Wildcat” or “Pistol” formations like in the Tennessee game, but he did take some focus from tailback Mike Gillislee (season-low 37 yards) and provide life to a Florida offense that had just 29 yards and two first downs at halftime.

“It’s just the flow of the game,” Burton said. “You have to take advantage when you have opportunities.”

Burton totaled only 10 yards on five carries, but his mere presence kept the Gamecocks off balance, evidenced by the double-handoff play that resulted in a 6-yard touchdown run by Omarius Hines in the third period. The USC defense had to honor the mere threat of Burton in the backfield. 

The Gators scored on all three drives (16 points worth) in the third quarter, with Burton taking snaps on all three possessions.

“We always have a package for Trey in every game,” Muschamp said. “The game comes easy to him.”

In all kinds of ways.

Let’s not forget the play Burton made on USC punt returner Ace Sanders that set up Florida’s second touchdown.

Against his former high school buddy/rival -- Burton played at Venice, Sanders at cross-county Bradenton Manatee -- Burton made the tackle, stripped the ball and recovered the fumble.

“I was thinking, ‘I’m free, I’m gonna hit him and hit him hard,’ but he put a juke move on me and I just dove at him,” Burton said. “When I hit the ball, everything just seemed like it was slow motion, with the ball bouncing all over the place. I happened to jump on it.”

Or as Muschamp put it, “Those are things [Burton] just has a knack for doing.” 

SPECIAL SPECIALISTS 

Kyle Christy’s last punt of the game was a 59-yard rocket that bounced into the end zone.

As Christy walked off the field, he smiled.

Considering the way things were going for him Saturday -- try seven punts of at least 50 yards, for a school-record average of 54.3 -- he probably figured the nose of the ball would bury in the turf like a lawn dart and stick the Gamecocks inside their 5.

“If it had bounced out of bounds, I would have been stoked,” Christy said. “But I just laughed it off.”

Muschamp and his coaches, no doubt, smiled also.

Between Christy (with his SEC-leading 47.9-yard average) and placekicker Caleb Sturgis (now 12-for-14 on field goals), the Gators may have the best one-two kicking punch in college football.

“When you play like we do, you better be good on special teams and you better have good specialists, You better have a punter who can flip the field, coverage units who can handle that, and you better have a good field-goal kicker,” Muschamp said. "I have tremendous confidence in both those guys. I wouldn’t trade them for anybody.”

SEVEN-AND-OH-MY-GOSH 

This is the sixth time in school history the Gators have opened a season 7-0. Here’s what happened the previous five times:

Year     Season End

1928     8-1

1966     9-2

1995     12-1 (SEC champions)

1996     12-1 (National, SEC champions)

2009     13-1

EXTRA POINTS

The Gators improved to 13-1 all-time against South Carolina in Gainesville and snapped the Gamecocks' 12-game win streak against SEC East opponents ... Florida has not allowed a touchdown at home to its three SEC opponents (Kentucky, LSU, South Carolina) ... The Gators have now outscored opponents 61-13 in the fourth quarter ... Jeff Driskel's four touchdown passes Saturday marked the first time a Gators quarter threw four TDs against an SEC opponent since Tim Tebow did it against Kentucky in 2007 ... Burton became the first UF player since Jermaine Cunningham in 2009 to force and recover  fumble in the same game ... Sophomore defensive back Jabari Gorman picked off South Carolina QB Dylan Thompson in the fourth quarter for his first career interception ... The Gamecocks became the first team since 1990 to block a UF extra-point and return it for a two-point conversion; South Carolina's Byron Jerideau blocked the kick and Victor Hampton returned it in the third quarter ... The announced crowd of 90,883 was the fifth-largest in Florida Field history.

 

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